President Cyril Ramaphosa said new requirements for entry into public service will include competency assessments, as part of government’s National Framework towards Professionalisation of the Public Sector, which will strengthen the management of State-owned entities and prioritise merit in the appointment of board members.
The Framework was made public last week.
Ramaphosa said in his weekly letter to the nation on Monday that government needs to build a public service that is professional, ethical and driven by merit, as the country recovers from State capture.
He said one of the “bitter lessons” South Africans took away from the State capture era is how fragile the country’s public sector can be and how it needs to be strengthened.
The State Capture Commission report laid bare how organs of State were systematically weakened by political and corporate interference.
It further detailed instances where individuals without the necessary competence and experience were appointed to strategic positions so that they could be manipulated by private interests.
The finalisation of the Framework, which will be applied across all spheres of the public sector, fulfils the President’s commitment, made in his February State of the Nation Address, to build a more capable State.
The Framework highlighted clear requirements for recruitment and selection processes, mandatory induction for new public servants and performance management. It prioritises continuous learning so that the skills and capabilities of public servants are always improving.
Ramaphosa said that this is to ensure that only qualified and competent individuals are appointed to the ranks of the public service.
“Those people who are unfit or unwilling to serve the public should make way for those who are dedicated and capable. We will be introducing competency assessments as part of new requirements for entry into the public service. Those seeking appointment or promotion will need to complete compulsory courses with the National School of Government (NSG); those who are newly appointed will not be allowed to assume duty until they have successfully completed induction programmes. Long-serving public servants will also have to undergo regular refresher training,” he explained.
Further, the Framework seeks to reduce undue pressure placed on directors-general and CEOs of public entities to carry out unlawful instructions, break public procurement rules or favour certain private sector interests, as happened during the State capture era.
The Framework will also contribute to greater stability in the senior leadership of the public service. Ramaphosa said staff appointed into political offices, including ministerial advisers, must complete a pre-entry course for middle and senior management with the NSG, as well as competency and integrity assessments within 90 days of their appointment.
“We have accepted several of the recommendations of the State Capture Commission in this regard, including that independent panels with appropriate technical expertise be constituted to recommend suitable candidates for boards,” he added.
He said this Framework should be welcomed by the country’s public servants as an important tool for progression as they work on the frontline to deliver on the promise of a better life for every South African.